extMEDIA: An XBMC disc changer interface


A while back, [Ben Gilstad] built his first HTPC, loading XBMC on it to manage all of his digital media. He loved XBMC’s features and flexibility, but he needed a way to enjoy his DVD and Blu Ray collection on the device without too much hassle. Far before [Ben Heck] considered fitting his Xbox 360 DVD drive into a CD carousel, this [Ben] was busy hacking a Blu Ray player into his.

He bought a broken disc changer at a garage sale, and tore apart a standard SATA Blu Ray player in preparation for the optical drive transplant. An ATMega168 controls the changer’s mechanics, monitoring the carousel’s position and triggering the proper motors when discs need to be swapped out. The AVR currently takes its direction from the HTPC over its serial port via a UDP proxy as XBMC did not support a serial interface at the time he was building the changer.

The second half of [Ben’s] project is an XBMC add-on that he uses to manage his huge collection of optical discs. In order to get XBMC to recognize each disc as a valid ‘file’, he created a clever workaround involving blank WMV clips. This enables him to view his DVDs as if they were digital files on his hard drive, complete with cover art.

It’s a fantastic project, and [Ben] says that his system should be able to support any number of physical disc changers simultaneously, without much issue. Unfortunately the project went on hiatus when he lost his job, so it’s packed away in storage for the time being. Once he gets back on his feet however, he has a whole list of planned changes and improvements to work on – we can’t wait to see it once complete!

Keep reading to check out a video demonstration of his XBMC add-on in action.

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Repairing your TV EDID

[Andreas] found that his home theater PC would not boot one day. Oddly, if he disconnected his HDMI cable from his TV, it would boot fine.  While most of us would have dug into the PC, he realized that it was a signal from the TV that was incorrect.  Luckily, LG had included a full schematic with the TV.  What he was able to figure out, using a home made snooper was that the EDID eeproms had somehow become corrupted. Not to worry, [Andreas] slapped together a full blown I2C interface and prepared to reprogram them with the correct data.  He noticed, however, that the eeproms were write protected.  On a whim, he decided to write to them any way and found that it was successful. He has some theories as to why they were writable, but says that he doesn’t want to pull the TV back apart to confirm.

[thanks evlapix]

Tiny keyboard/touchpad has “hack” written all over it

Yes, we know, this is not a hack, yet it just has the vibe of something we’ll likely be seeing in many small form-factor systems and wearable hacks in the future.

The USB Wireless Handheld Keyboard is a diminutive keyboard and mouse replacement with a passing resemblance to a BlackBerry PDA — where the screen has been replaced with a laptop-style trackpad sensor. This seems a shoo-in for home theater PC use; it’s unobtrusive and won’t look out of place on the coffee table alongside the universal remote. But any tiny system requiring only occasional input could likely benefit.

The keyboard layout is funky as heck, though likely adequate for its intended use of couch web-surfing and interactive messaging (or whatever wild applications our readers will surely come up with). A USB wireless receiver and a charging cable are included in the $62 package. Video after the break…

[USB Geek via Engadget]

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Coaster Controlled HTPC


These days, HTPCs are becoming more and more common, however controlling the content elegantly can be a painfully annoying problem. Roteno Labs have come up with a wonderful solution they call the RFiDJ. Similar to the RFID phone we covered earlier, they used a set of picture frame coasters and mounted descriptive pictures as well as unique RFID tags in each one. When a coaster is placed in the sensor area the server begins streaming that particular selection, including local news, This Week in Tech podcast, and other specific albums. Roteno Labs even managed to include a “shuffle” tag which would play content randomly out of a library. The end result is very well put together, excellently documented, and there is even a working video after the break.

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Mac Mini – getting a little more useful


We’re pretty sure Apple decided to implement an IR sensor in their Mac Mini line simply to mock the user. For those who are unaware, the built in sensor only works with the standard Apple Remote; unless you happen to have a programmable PDA or similar you’re SOL. An alternative solution would be to install a USB IR receiver. But then your beautiful Mac Mini is forced to sit alongside an ugly black box. Why not have the best of both worlds? [SqueeZe] wrote an (almost) entirely non invasive tutorial for placing a USB IR receiver inside his Mac Mini. Reminds us of a certain hack a while back, but the objective was to get the IR receiver outside of the unit rather than inside. Different people, different worlds.

[Thanks Kiran]

High explosives PC case


[Ilias] let us know about his new HTPC case mod.  He took a surplus Ammo-case and with a bit of work turned it into a livingroom eye-sore masterpiece. His build has some nice touches, including a slot-fed DVD player, switch-based fan control, and key-and-button “nuclear launch” type power-on controls.

A few things to learn from this project: Cleanly cutting holes in a steel case for the connectors is tough.  You can see that [Ilias] did a pretty good job with it and in several cases used rubber gaskets to cover the rough edges. Secondly, the slot fed DVD had to be mounted upside-down.  We assume this will be fine, but we’d like to hear a follow-up after a few years of heavy use. Finally, the GFAF (girlfriend acceptance factor) ran very close to critical on this build as [Ilias] didn’t clean up the metal shavings on his porch and ended up with rust stains everywhere.

Case mods are an enjoyable hobby. We hope this will inspire you to take the leap.  If you do, don’t forget to send your completed project into our tip line.

Add IR control to your WiFi router


[Craig] wanted to use Boxee on his TV but his computer was in a different room. He rigged up a rather dubious method of delivering the A/V signal (this is a hack in the most guttural sense). More interesting to us is his solution for a remote control interface. We’re familiar with building USB connected infrared receivers but [Craig] decided to patch one into the serial connection on his Linksys WRT54G router. Continue reading “Add IR control to your WiFi router”